Retired jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. went to Sacramento, Calif., on Wednesday to plead for help for California's embattled racing industry and jockeys.
"I know I speak for all California jockeys – we love this sport," Pincay told the California State Assembly's Government Organization Committee, which convened a hearing Aug. 23 on proposed amendments to gaming compacts for the Cahuilla Indians, who operate two casinos in the Palm Springs area. "But our industry is in great danger in California. When I first started riding here (1966), our fields were quite large with nine or 10 horses each race. But now our fields are shrinking and many races have only five horses.
"Owners and trainers are leaving California because other states have more money for purses. The reason: they have slot machines. Our industry in California simply can't compete. We understand the Indian tribes have a monopoly on slot machines here. But when you (the legislature) approve new compacts, make sure something is done for racing. Please dedicate a portion of the money to help the racing industry."
"You could start by setting aside some for a retirement plan for jockeys," concluded the 59-year-old Pincay, who retired in 2003 after a serious neck injury. "I was lucky. I'm OK, but many jockeys are left very poor in their old age. Such a plan would be the first of its kind in the country and would be a major step in helping jockeys."
Barry Broad, attorney and lobbyist for the Jockeys' Guild, accompanied Pincay at the hearing. Pincay's comments came after more than three hours of earlier testimony from various parties concerned about the prospective tribal compacts. The Cahuilla Indians, part of the Agua Caliente band, are seeking approval to open a third casino while expanding their two current casinos. Broad and Guild manager Dwight Manley said other racing industry representatives are expected to request that a portion of the state's share of the $7 billion Indian gaming industry be directed to race purses.
Under provisions of the new Indian compact, which could provide the state with a reported $1.9 billion over the next 23 years, the Agua Caliente band would be allowed to open a third desert casino and operate up to 5,000 slot machines.
In the pending compact which would expire in 2030, Agua Caliente agreed to pay the state $23.4 million a year for the existing slots, plus a 15% fee on the net win from the 3,000 new slots, which could produce $53.5 million per year. The tribe would also pay $2 million a year into a fund for small and non-gaming tribes.